Ex-Interpol chief pleads guilty to corruption: China state media

Former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei has pleaded guilty to charges of accepting bribes, Chinese state media reported.

Meng – a Chinese citizen – has been under investigation since October 2018. He is accused of taking 14.5 million yuan ($2.1m) in unlawful payments between 2005 and 2017, using his status and positions, including as vice minister of public security and Marine Police Chief to accumulate the money.

He reportedly admitted his guilt during a court hearing on Thursday in the northern city of Tianjin in China, according to the People’s Daily, an official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee. 

Interpol, the global police coordination agency based in France, said last October that Meng had resigned as president, days after his wife Grace Meng reported him missing after he travelled back to China.  

He was later accused of accepting bribes and expelled from the Communist Party, with China’s Public Security Ministry saying in March that Meng’s “poisonous influence” had to be “thoroughly eliminated”. 

It was not clear who Meng’s lawyer was and news agencies have been unable to reach them or any legal representative for comment.

Chinese courts are tightly-controlled by the Communist Party and Meng is almost certain to be found guilty, Reuters news agency said. 

The court will announce its verdict at a “select date or time,” a statement from the court said, without specifying further. 

Fall from grace

Meng is among a growing group of Communist Party cadres caught in President Xi Jinping’anti-corruption campaign, which critics say has served as a way to remove the leader’s political enemies.

More than one million officials have been punished so far during Xi’s six-year tenure. He has vowed to target both “tigers” and “flies”, a reference to elite officials and lower-level bureaucrats. 

As vice security minister, Meng oversaw as number of sensitive portfolios, including the country’s counterterrorism division, and he was in charge of the response to violence in China’s fractious northwestern region of Xinjiang.

During his time as vice security minister, the public security bureau arrested and interrogated a number of prominent Chinese dissidents, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was arrested in 2008 and died of liver cancer in 2017 while still in custody.

Meng’s appointment at Interpol raised eyebrows, with human rights groups concerned that Beijing would use the organisation to round up Chinese dissidents overseas. Meng had been expected to serve a four-year term, ending in 2020.

Grace Meng, who has been granted political asylum in France along with the couple’s two children, has said the charges against him are politically motivated.

In interviews with French media, she has said she fears for her life and was afraid she and her children would be the targets of kidnapping attempts. 

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Grace Meng’s lawyer says she has formally requested refuge from French authorities as she is afraid she may be kidnapped. Her husband, Meng Hongwei, went missing in September after traveling to his native China. The wife of the former Interpol chief being held in China on corruption charges has applied for asylum in France, her spokesperson has said.

It appears that an aggressive lobbying campaign by the US and the UK has succeeded in stopping a qualified Russian candidate from winning the presidency of Interpol. One day after four US senators, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the home office of the UK expressed outrage at the notion that Interpol Vice President Alexander Prokopchuk, a general in the Russian Interior Ministry, had emerged as the front-runner to become the international police agency’s next president. Both the US and UK urged Interpol members to vote instead for Kim Jong Yang, who assumed the role of acting president after the last president, Meng Hongwei, disappeared in China following rumors of a corruption prosecution, according to the Financial Times.

The wife of missing Interpol president Meng Hongwei has said he sent her an image of a knife before he disappeared in China. Grace Meng told reporters in Lyon, France, that she thinks her husband was trying to tell her he was in danger.

The president of Interpol, contrary to original reports, is not missing. Rather, Meng Hongwei ( 孟宏伟 ), the head of the International Criminal Police Organization, has been detained by Chinese authorities while on a visit home from Interpol’s headquarters in Lyon, France.

France has opened an investigation into the disappearance of Meng Hongwei, the Chinese head of the international police agency Interpol.

A top Chinese police official was elected president of Interpol on Thursday, setting off alarm bells among rights advocates over abuses and a lack of transparency within China’s legal system, as well as the potential misuse of the police organization to attack Beijing’s political opponents. Vice Public Security Minister Meng Hongwei was named as the first Chinese to hold the post at the organization’s general assembly on the Indonesian island of Bali, Interpol announced in a press release.

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